losangelesnewstoday.com March 19, 2018

S Korea to announce joint military drill plan with U.S. before April

20 February 2018, 08:12 | Katrina Lee

Illustration by Tom Bachtell

Illustration by Tom Bachtell

South Korea and the United States will announce by the end of March when they will hold annual joint military exercises that have been postponed to avoid coinciding with the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Seoul's defense chief said Tuesday.

In a pair of blistering commentaries released Monday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency blasted the USA over what it said were moves to stifle the emerging intra-Korean detente, saying that the country is "fully ready for both dialogue and war" and prepared to respond to any US "provocation by prompt counterstrike".

The two countries, which regularly conduct joint military exercises, chose to postpone them during the Olympics - before talks between North and South Korea began.

Song said the South and the USA postponed the exercises in accordance with the Olympic spirit.

The ministry refused to confirm nor deny the report, while US Forces Korea said that Seoul and Washington planned to conduct the postponed drills "as planned".

The date for the start will be announced by the two allies "some time between March 18 and the beginning of April", Seoul's defence minister, Song Young-moo, was quoted as telling the National Assembly by a ministry spokesman.

Regarding concerns there could be cracks in the South Korea-U.S. alliance due to the postponement of the drills, Song said there is not even "a difference of one millimeter between the allies".

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The South Korean and United States militaries usually hold military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle in March and April, which can involve as many as 17,000 U.S. troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

Moon said Saturday that it was too early to think about a meeting despite the Olympic-driven rapprochement with its neighbor, but added that "there are high hopes for a North-South summit".

"I am aware that discussion between the South Korean and the US military authorities are underway to resume the military drills", Cho Myoung-Gyon said, saying he saw no reason to oppose them.

"The DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war", the commentary said, using the acronym for the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang says it needs its nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion by the US.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo speaks as he visits a spot where a North Korean has defected crossing the border on November 27, 2017 in Panmunjom, South Korea.

The North's response continued: "It is a provocative act of chilling the active efforts of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and enthusiasm of the worldwide community to defuse tension and create a peaceful environment".

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